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Three Meds Linked to Many Adverse Drug Events in Elderly

However, only a small number of emergency visits are associated with drugs on Beers criteria list

TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Of the adverse drug events among older adults treated in U.S. emergency departments over a recent two-year period, relatively few involved drugs found on a commonly used list of medications deemed potentially inappropriate for older adults, according to study findings published in the Dec. 4 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Daniel S. Budnitz, M.D., of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues analyzed data on adverse drug events in 2004-2005 from a national surveillance system including 58 hospitals with emergency departments, as well as two other national surveys on outpatient prescriptions. The investigators evaluated how many of the medications involved were found on the Beers criteria list, which contains 48 medications or classes to be used with caution in this population.

The authors report an estimated 177,504 visits for adverse drug events in each year, with 3.6 percent involving drugs that are "always potentially inappropriate" according to Beers criteria. However, one-third of visits involved three other medications: warfarin, insulin and digoxin.

"Our findings suggest that, because of the high risk for adverse events and the common outpatient use of insulin, warfarin and digoxin, even small improvements in the use of these medications have greater potential for reducing the burden of serious adverse drug events among older Americans, as measured by emergency department visits, than do large reductions in the prescription of lower-risk medications, such as those considered to be always potentially inappropriate by the Beers criteria," the authors write.

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